Hidradenitis Suppurativa Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

An important part of managing hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is empowering yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Below is a list of commonly asked questions about the disease. Should you have any further questions or concerns please discuss these with your doctor.

No, HS is not contagious. Though it affects the skin, HS is a chronic inflammatory disorder, which means the condition is brought on by irregularities in the body’s own immune system.1-4

Although there is no cure for HS, not all cases are progressive (meaning that the condition may not increase in severity over time). However, given the recurring nature of the condition, proper management is critical.5-8

HS can take on a variety of forms, which can be different from person to person. Likewise, the number of HS flare-ups can vary. Some of the mildest cases of HS can resemble small bumps or blackheads, while patients with more severe forms can have recurrent painful abscesses (collection of pus).1,3,4,12

Unfortunately, there is no cure for HS. Medical research has established that HS is found more often in smokers and that smoking appears to trigger HS or make it worse. However, there is some evidence that HS does improve on stopping smoking.5,7,9,10

Research shows that HS is associated with being overweight and the severity of the disease increases with the degree of obesity.1,4 

If overweight, losing weight may help improve overall health – discuss options with your health care professional.

Research has found that there is a genetic predisposition to hidradenitis suppurativa. In fact, one third of patients have a family history of the condition.1

Each person living with HS will have a different experience with the condition and as a result, will be able to participate in different kinds of physical activities. Patients should consult with their dermatologist if they have any concerns about the kind of activities in which they can take part.

No, there is no widely accepted diagnostic blood test for HS.

Application of local antiseptics may reduce the smell of lesions caused by HS. Discuss your options with a dermatologist.

Clothing specifically may not help with the management of HS; however, patients should consult with their dermatologist about what works best for them based on the site and severity of their condition. Typically, cotton and loose-fitting clothes are preferable to synthetic, wool or slim garments.


  1. Jemec GB. Clinical practice. Hidradenitis suppurativa. N Engl J Med 2012;366:158–164.
  2. Zouboulis CC, Tsatsou F. Disorders of the apocrine sweat glands. In: Goldsmith LA, Katz SI, Gilchrest BA, Paller AS, Leffell DJ, Wolff K. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, Chicago: McGraw Hill; 2012. p947–959.
  3. The British Association of Dermatologists. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information-leaflets/hidradenitis-suppurativa. Accessed August 2013.
  4. Collier F, Smith R, Morton C. Diagnosis and management of hidradenitis suppurativa. BMJ 2013;346:f2121.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hidradenitis-suppurativa/home/ovc-20200012. Accessed August 2013.
  6. Kurzen H, Kurokawa I, Jemec GB, et al. What causes hidradenitis suppurativa? Exp Dermatol 2008;17:455–456; discussion 457–472.
  7. NHS Choices. Hidradenitis suppurativa. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hidradenitis-suppurativa/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed April 2015.
  8. Revuz J. Hidradenitis suppurativa. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2009;23:985–998.
  9. Dufour ND, Emtestam L, Jemec GB. Hidradenitis suppurativa: a common and burdensome, yet under-recognised, inflammatory skin disease. Postgrad Med J 2014;90:216–221.
  10. Vazquez BG, Alikhan A, Weaver AL, et al. Incidence of hidradenitis suppurativa and associated factors: a population-based study of Olmsted County, Minnesota. J Invest Dermatol 2013;133:97–103.
  11. Lapins J, Ye W, Nyren O, Emtestam L, et al. Incidence of Cancer Among Patients with Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Archives of Dermatology 2001; 137:730-734
  12. https://patient.info/health/hidradenitis-suppurativa-leaflet. Accessed May 2016